Tag Archives: liver health

Benefits of Lemon Water for Liver, Gallbladder and Energy

We’ve discussed lemons for skin health and beauty, but what about the awesome benefits of lemon water for your liver, your gallbladder and even your energy? Not to mention the zesty taste! Lemon water has this sort of ambiguously detox-y reputation on the interwebs.  Seems like a lot of people like the way it makes them feel, most people seem to feel it does something related to detox but isn’t sure quite what, and some people claim it’s the cure-all. I’m not going to ever call anything a cure-all because every person’s physiology is unique, but there are some things that are pretty universally good, and as it turns out having a nice, hot lemon water in the morning is one of those.

The benefits of lemon water make this little guy a superfood. Thanks to Evan Amos for the great photo.

The benefits of lemon water make this little guy a superfood. Thanks to Evan Amos for the great photo.

The Actual Benefits of Lemon Water


  • The acidity of lemon juice makes it a much-used cholagogue for herbalists and even the doctors of yore (yore has to be one of my favorite words – I couldn’t resist a chance to sneak it in there). Cholagogues promote the discharge of bile from the system, purging it downward.  In plain English, that means that when you eat or drink lemon or lemon juice it stimulates your body to release bile into your intestinal tract to pass through into the stool. Bile helps you to digest fats that you eat, and it also helps eliminate cholesterol and fat soluble toxins.  This makes lemon water a gentle detoxifier.
  • Just as a fun factoid, if you’re not sure if something is a good cholagogue (the new word of the day), just taste it.  Cholagogues are usually strongly sour or bitter and you can feel that little salivary gland at the back of your jaw start to freak out.  Lemons are all over this!
  • Your liver does much of it’s heavy lifting overnight while you sleep. In the morning there can be a back-log of toxins from the night before that your body would love to eliminate. To do that it honestly benefits pretty greatly from both the water – especially warm water, and the lemon juice itself.
  • Lemon juice may even stimulate healthy production of both bile and stomach acid and it was used historically to do just that, although there isn’t research out there to support this use.


  • In addition to the lemon, there’s the water and the water is actually key to this whole thing.  Detoxification, which is essentially cleaning, requires water just like every other washing job you’ve ever done.  Have you ever tried cleaning the dishes without water? Washing the car? Yup. All hinges on water.
  • Let’s face it – we all struggle for that 8-10 glasses of water we’re supposed to get every day. With lemon water at least one of them tastes good!

Think More Clearly

  • There is a strongly established link between getting enough water and using your brain effectively. The mountain of research on this link for adults is huge and there’s even research showing clearly this link in kiddos.
  • Essential oil of lemon, which is the lemon smell released by the lemon water, is also shown to improve mood and cognitive performance in adults, so double whammy.
  • Triple whammy! The bioflavenoids in citrus fruit are also shown to boost cognitive performance including nobilitin and hesperidin.

Lose Weight and Boost Heart Health

  • A study from the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that drinking more water boosts metabolism by about 30% for both men and women.  That is incredibly helpful! The study went on to say that people who drank 1.5 liters of water per day burn an additional 17,400 calories over a year just through this one simple step. That’s a weight loss of 5 pounds, just by drinking water.
  • An additional study on the lemon detox diet showed that adding lemon detox drink to a low calorie diet actually improves the cardiovascular benefits of that diet.  They compared three groups, one eating a normal diet, one eating a calorie restricted diet and one eating a calorie restricted diet plus lemon water sweetened with maple syrup. Both low calorie groups lost weight, lowered their insulin and reduced their waist-hip ratios but only the lemon water group showed improvements in cardiovascular inflammation.

Get Your Antioxidants

  • Lemon water from the recipe below has about 22 mg of vitamin C, or 36% of your daily value. It also has small amounts of vitamin A and vitamin E.
  • Citrus bioflavenoids are an incredibly diverse group of compounds that are high-powered antioxidants and every day there is new research emerging for compounds such as hesperidin, quercitin, rutin, nobilitin and there are literally hundreds of others that have yet to be researched.

Boost Your Happy

  • Lemon essential oil is one of the scents most associated with elevated mood.  It is stimulating to the energy but not agitating – it remains calming to the nerves. In short, it gives you the happy.

Not only that but one of the best benefits of lemon water is that you can drink this, and also your coffee. It doesn’t have caffeine and so won’t conflict at all with that beloved morning ritual. Now – if you want to enjoy the health benefits of lemon water, here’s a fantastic recipe:

Lemon Water Recipe

Juice from 1/2 large lemon or 1 small lemon
Zest from the peel – just a few swipes will do
12-16 oz hot water (I prefer 16 to soften the tartness)
If you can’t tolerate the tartness then a little bit of raw honey

Mix it all together in your favorite mug and enjoy the lovely fresh smell, the tart wake-me-up taste and all those health benefits of lemon water. And no worries – you can still have a coffee or tea if you want without worrying about being over-caffeinated.

How To Do A Castor Oil Pack the Lazy Way

A castor oil pack is something that sounds not-glamorous. Not-glamorous to the same extent as say a mustard plaster, or possibly even an enema (gasp).  I get that. This isn’t a sexy sounding topic, but the thing is, doing a castor oil pack is one of the simplest, gentlest, best life hacks for liver health, gallbladder function and even women’s hormones and breast health. I honestly think if everyone would do these on a regular basis, we’d have world peace. Okay, not quite world peace, but we’d all be a lot healthier.

What is a Castor Oil Pack?

Simply stated, this is a great way to help your body absorb castor oil through your skin to help the local area (meaning the skin in that area but also the underlying organs and structures) and your health in general. Why, you might ask, do you want to absorb castor oil through your skin?  There’s a whole post on it here, but the quick and dirty is that castor oil topically gives you a tremendous immune boost, anti-inflammatory benefit, and also a gentle detoxification.  Hard to get all of those things anywhere else with so little effort.

The Traditional Castor Oil Pack

There is a formal way to do this, popularized by Edgar Cayce and many other practitioners. I don’t usually do it this way, but it’s probably the best way to do it.

Castor oil pack - picture by Pete Markham from Loretto, USA

Castor oil – picture by Pete Markham from Loretto, USA. This bottle is from the light-keepers house at Split Rock Lighthouse in Minnesota.

You Will Need:

  • Organic flannel – about 1/2 yard (or meter) of organic flannel, folded into a square
  • Organic, hexane-free castor oil
  • A Mason Jar or something similar to put the saturated flannel in after
  • Plastic wrap to cover the outside of the castor oil (it’s preferable to use something non-plastic, but it’s also messier.)
  • A hot water bottle or heating pad
  • 90 minutes

Directions for a Castor Oil Pack:

  1. Saturate the folded flannel with the castor oil. The first time you do this it will take a fair bit of oil. You want the flannel to be full of oil, but not dripping everywhere.
  2. Put the flannel square over the area you’d like to treat – usually the right side of your abdomen under your rib cage (for liver/gallbladder), but it could be over your lower pelvis (for menstrual cramps, hormone balance, fibroids, or really any other uterine issue), over your breasts for fibrocystic breasts, or even over a sore joint, skin rash or other inflammatory issue.
  3. Wrap the pack and the area of your body that it’s covering with plastic wrap. This has no therapeutic value, but it helps to keep your house clean because castor oil is heavy oil and will stain.
  4. Put a hot water bottle or hot pack over the castor oil pack
  5. Lie back and rest for 90 minutes (NICE!!) This is potentially the best part of the castor oil pack.

So – this is great. It allows your skin to absorb as much castor oil as it possibly can because the cloth is saturated so it can just keep soaking up the oil for that gorgeous 90 minute rest.  The problem is, who *actually* has time for a 90 minute rest? Therapeutically it’s a great idea, but practically it’s a little difficult – hence Dr. Amy’s Slightly Lazy Castor Oil Pack…

Dr. Amy’s Slightly Lazy Castor Oil Pack – Castor Oil Life Hack

This is probably not quite as perfect as the traditional method, but it’s a whole lot easier, and because it’s easier it’s a lot more likely to get done. This is an awesome castor oil life hack.  It’s quick and easy detox, anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving awesomeness.

You Will Need:

  • Organic castor oil
  • A pair of pyjamas that can be dedicated for the rest of their natural lives to castor oil. They will never be the same again.
  • A hot water bottle of heating pad if you want.

Directions for The Lazy Castor Oil Pack:

  1. Slather a good layer of castor oil over the area you want to treat:
    1. Liver/gallbladder – the right side of your abdomen under your rib cage, including your right side and even the right side of your back. Honestly I pretty much just cover my whole stomach and back and leave it at that.
    2. Uterus – slather your whole lower pelvis
    3. Breasts – just cover the whole area
    4. Joints, rashes and other local inflammation – put a good layer over the whole area
  2. Throw on the chosen pajamas
  3. If you have a hot water bottle or hot pack, go for it.
  4. Go to bed for the night
  5. When you wake up the next morning the oil will be absorbed, your body will be working on the castor oil and enjoying the anti-inflammatory benefits, and you really only spent 5 extra minutes putting on the oil.

This method provides an easy way to work this into a busy lifestyle.  Granted, the 90 minute rest has it’s own therapeutic benefit and if you can do it, I would highly recommend it.  If you can’t work that in (like I often can’t) then by all means do the lazy method. This gives you the opportunity to work castor oil in more frequently – even doing it a few times per week.

After having my daughter I was doing lazy castor oil packs over my abdomen and pelvis 3-4 nights per week just to help my body to deal with the anesthetics, surgical recovery and pain.  I feel like my recovery was far more smooth and easy than it otherwise would have been, simply because I was able to use castor oil so frequently.  If I had to take 90 minutes and do the full castor oil pack experience I wouldn’t have been able to fit it in at all.

Natural Remedies for Liver Health and Support

In preparing for the new year I’d like to talk about natural remedies for liver health and support because let’s face it – livers don’t get a lot of love. It’s really easy to take your liver for granted, never really realizing how much it does for you on a day to day basis. But just in case you aren’t liver-savvy, this organ has got a lot going for it.

What Makes Your Liver so Special:

Your liver is the primary organ of detoxification and it deals with the burden of chemical and toxin exposure from normal everyday living. Let’s learn a little bit about it:

  • Your liver lives on the right side of your body at the bottom of your ribcage, right below your diaphragm.
  • It’s the only organ in the human body that can regenerate.
  • It regulates and stores glycogen (which is your storage form of sugar to protect you when your blood sugar levels fall).
  • It produces bile to help you emulsify and digest fatty foods – this bile then goes to the gallbladder to be stored and concentrated for use.
  • Your liver manufactures cholesterol, triglycerides and lipoproteins.
  • Your liver makes coagulation factors so that your blood can clot when needed.
  • Your liver stores basic nutrients for your body to use in emergencies. These include a 1-2 year supply of vitamin A, a 1-4 month supply of vitamin D, a 1-3 year supply of vitamin B12, and also vitamin K, iron and copper.
  • It helps break down old worn-out or damaged red blood cells.
  • Guesses as to the number of functions your liver is responsible for vary slightly, but most sources say around 500 (!!)

Needless to say your liver is absolutely essential to health, vitality and life itself so it’s important to learn to take care of it adequately.

Signs Your Liver Needs a Little Love

Livers are big organs, and vital so they have a lot of flexibility before there will be real problems and often liver enzymes, which is the quick measure for liver function on your blood work, will be normal even when the liver is mildly compromised. Some signs, symptoms and indications that your liver needs some support include:

  • Nausea or low-grade stomach ickiness for no reason.
  • Fatigue
  • Low-grade headaches (like a very minor hangover)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Itching for no reason – just general skin itching
  • Jaundice – this is yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes and if you see anything so serious as this please go see your doctor right away
  • Clotting or extremely dark blood in a woman’s menstrual flow
  • History of moderate to heavy alcohol use (>14-21 drinks per week for a woman or >21 drinks per week for a man)
  • History of smoking
  • History of drug use
  • More than 3 prescription drugs
  • Liver enzymes out of balance or evidence of a fatty liver (always work with your doctor if this is the case).

Natural Remedies for Liver – Foods and Nutrition

Your liver is one of the first places that break-down products from foods go once they’re absorbed into your blood stream so it is very vulnerable to foods and can easily be helped or hurt by foods. Here’s a healthy liver eating guide:

Artichokes are one of the great natural remedies for liver health. This picture was found on the California Artichoke Advisory Board website - who knew there was such a thing? If you're curious you can find them at artichokes.org

Artichokes are a great natural remedy for liver health. This picture was found on the California Artichoke Advisory Board website – who knew there was such a thing? If you’re curious you can find them at artichokes.org

  • Eat organic – pesticides, herbicides, hormones and antibiotics in your foods have to be processed by your liver. There are some foods that actually accumulate pestices – for those check the dirty dozen and clean fifteen.
  • Filter your tap water – if you don’t filter it, or get purified water, then your liver will have to. Tap water is fine for survival but not optimal for health because it countains small amounts of many pharmaceutical drugs, tiny amounts of metals and small amounts of industrial and agricultural chemicals.
  • Drink lots of water – like any other filtration system, your liver works best if there is lots of water flushing through the system helping to keep things clean, so to speak.
  • Add lemon juice or apple cider vinegar – adding lemon or lime juice or a little bit of apple cider vinegar to your water can encourage gentle detoxification and the acidity helps to clear bile and sludge from the ducts and gallbladder. It’s gentle but helpful.
  • Eat beets – your liver loves beets and they encourage and support liver function.
  • Eat dark green leafy vegetables – again, your liver loves these. Especially when there is a hint of bitterness to them like dandelion greens.
  • Eat artichokes – you know the weird feeling artichokes give your salivary glands? They do that to your liver too. It’s called a “secretagogue” and it increases saliva and bile production which also helps to flush toxins through the liver and ducts.
  • Avoid GMO foods – we don’t really know what the body has to do to detoxify these foods, so they may be just fine but the point is that we don’t really know – in situations like that, it’s best to just avoid as much as possible.
  • Avoid processed foods – the more chemicals you can’t pronounce that are in your food, the more chemicals you can’t pronounce that your liver has to figure out how to deal with.
  • Don’t eat artificial sweeteners – no matter what anyone says these are chemicals and all chemicals have to be processed by your liver. It increases the burden on your liver (not to mention the neurological reasons not to eat them!)
  • Drink coffee – nobody believes me because it sounds too good to be true, but 1-2 cups (6 oz cups – coffee cups are supposed to be small) of coffee per day can protect your liver from damage and even help to protect it from cancer. Here’s a link for more information.
  • DeTox Tea – many companies make detox teas that are gentle herbal formulas to support liver function. My favorites are Dandelion tea from Traditional Medicinals and DeTox Tea from Yogi Teas.
  • Cook at home – I know it’s not easy – I also live in the modern world where nobody has time and cooking is kind of a pain, but this is the best way to make sure you and your family are eating real food made of real ingredients.
  • Moderate your sugar and starch intake – too much sugar is obviously a risk for diabetes, but it also adds to the work your liver has to do – especially when blood sugar levels start getting out of control. This means your liver has to store more glycogen and adapt to ever-rising blood sugar levels.
  • Get at least one fruit or veggie with each meal
  • Eat enough fiber – the US RDA is 25 grams but the average intake is about 12.5 grams.  Make sure you’re getting at least 25 grams of fiber every day to help your bowels move effectively and carry toxins out of your system.  If your bowels are slow or there isn’t enough fiber in your digestive tract then toxins can be reabsorbed, which doubles the work your liver has to do.

Natural Remedies for Liver – Supplements

If you’re already eating a liver healthy diet but still having some difficulty then it’s time to support your liver a little bit more strongly. There are some great herbs and nutrients for liver support as well as some great combination products.

  • Milk Thistle – seems like everyone knows this one. It supports and nourishes liver detoxification and has been well researched. It’s an antioxidant and hepatoprotectant (meaning it protects liver cells). Milk thistle also boosts production of glutathione which is your body’s central antioxidant.
  • Choline – this amino acid acts as a methyl donor in detox reactions
  • Methionine – this amino acid also acts as a methyl donor
  • Vitamin B-6 – this vitamin is a co-factor in many detoxification reactions
  • Vitamin B-12 – this works with B-6. Make sure you’re getting the methylcobalamin or hydroxycobalamin form.
  • Folic acid – This vitamin is an important cofactor for detox as well and must be in a methylated form such as methyl-folate, 5-methyl tetrahydrofolate or metafolin.
  • NAC – helps your body to build more glutathione, the master antioxidant and protects liver cells from toxin damage.
  • Magnesium – helps to balance many detox reactions, including transmethylation.
  • Dandelion root – this also encourages bile production in the liver and helps detoxification pathways.
  • Cilantro – this detoxifier specifically helps to amplify detoxification of heavy metals.
  • Turmeric or curcumin extracts – this reduces inflammation and increases antioxidants and detoxification.
  • Chicory root – this aids in liver detoxification and will even help to elminate tiny stones and calcifications.

Just in Case you Want Supplement Names – Here Are My Favorite

  • Lipotrophic Factors by Integrative Therapeutics Inc. (ITI)
  • Livaplex by Standard Process
  • Liver Cleanse by Thorne Research
  • Liver Defend by NuMedica
  • Deep Liver Support by Gaia

With any liver support, start slowly and always make the dietary changes first to get your body ready for gentle detoxification.  Start with just one capsule or tablet daily and see how your body responds. If you’re not noticing anything then increase slowly and it’s always best to work with a practitioner.  Natural remedies for liver health are safe and highly effective, but if your liver symptoms get worse then please get checked out by a doctor because liver disease isn’t something to mess with.